At the end of the day, an audience is what will make or break a publication. With the emergence of search engine optimization (SEO) and social media, audiences today are very much active as opposed to passive consumers. While audience consideration is imperative, it is also important to remember journalism’s primary objective, which is to serve as a watchdog.
When considering what to cover in each week’s edition of The Tangerine, I always consider what will be relative to our audience, which is primarily made up of college students. While I want us to report on relevant issues, I also understand that what is relevant to me may not be to our audience. That is why I have found that it is important to find a balance between what readers should know and what they want to know. Obviously, if I were to structure the paper around a certain topic, then I am going to isolate a fair amount of potential consumers because everyone consumes media differently. At the same time, I also think that it is the responsibility of journalists to report what people need to know, not just what they want to hear. However, the power of the media to influence and imply importance by reporting on something comes with great responsibility — this is where the audience-oriented editor working as an intermediary between audience data and a newsroom can come into play. (Ferrer-Conill & Tandoc Jr., 2018)
Whether an editor likes it or not, audience must be considered in the 21st century newsroom given the presence of social media and the role it plays in news gathering. However, there is a fine line between gratifying an audience and educating an audience. Covering what an audience would agree with may work, but it can also lead to confirmation bias.
If I was in charge of the Associated Press, then I also would have published the photo of Lance Cpl. Joshua M. Bernard.
Whether directly or indirectly, the U.S. is involved in dozens of armed conflicts around the world — we just do not know about most of them. However, the conflicts that are widely known throughout the country, such as the Syrian civil war or ongoing U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, were introduced to Americans in graphic detail through reporting across print, television and radio. Considering this, I think it was both necessary and impactful for the photos of Bernard to be published; like Julie Jacobson said, “It’s necessary to be uncomfortable from time to time.” This, according to the textbook, is something that Bernard’s fellow marines understood. Without the reporters currently in the field, I truly do not think average citizens would be able to comprehend the information and images coming out of war zones.
It was interesting to read about the reaction Bernard’s fellow Marines had to Jacobson’s photo versus that of the public. But it is no surprise that the public would be upset over these photos, especially given that 78 percent of Americans have “a great deal or quite a lot of confidence” in the military, according to a 2017 Gallup poll (Newport, 2017). At the same time, 22 percent of respondents indicated that they have confidence in the military based on their positive feelings towards those who serve, saying that military members are, among other things, “brave,” “selfless” and “committed” people (Newport, 2017). No matter your perception of the U.S. military, the men and women who serve are undoubtedly held in high regard. However, it is important to remember that they are still human beings who are placed in fatal situations around the world. And if reporters like Jacobson cannot tell their real, unsterilized stories, then Americans will never get a true idea of what armed service members go through on a daily basis and how military conflicts around the world affect real people.